The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Learning to speak a hard truth

Needle barely moved on ELCA becoming a diverse church

Consider this: how many of you are left-handed? Of those of you who are, how many times a day are you reminded that you are left-handed? At every meal when you sit next to a right-handed person and bump elbows? When you use scissors? When you write? When you shake hands?

Now, how many of you are right-handed? Chances are you never have to think about being right-handed. Most of us are right-handed. The world is set up for right-handed people. This isn’t necessarily bad. It just is.

The problem starts when the practical application of an economy of scale slides into a value judgment, when the majority’s physical characteristic shifts from an objective fact to a subjective model of what is proper and good.

Right-handed people become a privileged group. Left-handedness becomes not a simple handedness but something of less value, limited accessibility in the right-handed world, and sometimes even a character flaw. We speak of “left-handed compliments,” the word “sinister” derives from the Latin for “left,” and some of us are old enough to remember when parents and teachers would try to force left-handed children to use their right hands.

I use this illustration as a way to start to look at some of the complicated issues involved in this church’s uneven, and still incomplete, effort to be a truly diverse and multicultural people.

We see the glorious vision of redeemed humanity “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9), but do not see this reflected in our communities of faith. The U.S. is becoming increasingly diverse. Your children’s or your grandchildren’s soccer team might more accurately reflect local demographics than Sunday mornings at church.

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